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Plant microfossils in prehistoric archaeological deposits from Yuku rock shelter, Western Highlands, Papua New Guinea

by admin last modified 2008-03-25 02:13 PM

Horrocks M, Bulmer S, Gardner RO. 2008. Journal of Archaeological Science 35, 290-301.


Plant microfossil analysis was carried out on anthropogenic deposits from Yuku rock shelter, possibly occupied from before 14,200 cal. BP to recent times, in the Papua New Guinea Highlands. Elaeocarpus pollen has extremely high percentages throughout. Starch residues of lesser yam (Dioscorea esculenta) and one or more, undifferentiated Dioscorea species were identified, suggesting processing of these taxa since first use of the site. The latter include Dioscorea alata, Dioscorea bulbifera, Dioscorea nummularia and Dioscorea pentaphylla. Pollen and phytoliths of banana (Musa) appear 5200 cal. BP. We cannot differentiate between naturally growing and cultivated yams and bananas. Putative truffle (hypogeous Ascomycotina) spores in the deposits suggest foraging of truffles.


Plant microfossils, Dioscorea, Musa, prehistoric plant subsistence, New Guinea Highlands.

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